Eleven types of virtual worshipers
It is indeed a brave new world. While I and most of my congregation shelter at home to avoid a contagious virus, Sunday morning worship has become a virtual occasion. I set up my iPhone on a tripod in the center aisle of the sanctuary, start a live broadcast on Facebook and proceed to lead worship and preach a sermon all by myself. (Well, actually, the organist has been there with me, too.) It’s a marvelous paradox. I am preaching to nobody and the entire world all at the same time.
Normally, on a Sunday morning, I would be preaching to a group of seventy to sometimes over 150 people. I would make eye contact, pause to get reaction, sow stories and reap responses from facial expressions, nods, smiles and laughter. Now, with none of that in the room, I have to imagine all of that in my mind. In some ways its not unlike my college radio days, when I spoke to a microphone in a small electronics-filled booth.
Here’s my light-hearted but certainly incomplete list of those I imagine using my broadcast or upload for Sunday worship until the quarantine lifts and we are back together again.
The Cut-to-the-Chase worshiper fast-forwards to the sermon for instruction and inspiration. Without the surrounding bread of liturgy and prayers, they consume the meat of the morning. These might very well be those who always arrive late and often leave early on a normal Sunday morning.
The All-In worshiper gets up, showers, gets dressed, eats breakfast and tunes in exactly when the broadcast begins. This person fully participates with bible, hymnal and worship folder in hand, speaking and singing along, visibly and verbally responding to the message.
The Must-Not-Smile worshiper is a faithful Sunday morning attender, but simply sits and listens. They do not speak, sing, smile or respond in any way at all. Of course they’re blessed by the experience, but they do so very passively.
The Pause-and-Play worshiper is thankful for a virtual Sunday morning experience. They can pause the service for a potty-break, a drink, a snack, or a coffee-refill (and then another potty-break) and never miss a note of music or word of the sermon. When live worship gatherings resume, you’ll seem them leave and return to the sanctuary several times each morning.
The Responder is also grateful for an at-home time of worship. They talk back to the screen, ask questions and might even openly disagree with the preacher. I can’t hear them but I know they are there.
The Commenter relishes the opportunity to type in their comments during the service. I appreciate the greetings from far away places, the LOLs in place of laughter, and updates on sound and lighting. Unfortunately, once I hit the start button and the service begins, I can neither see nor respond to them until I scroll through them later.
The Anonymous worshiper is of course someone I’ve never met. My service is available to the public, so someone I don’t know may tune and watch some or all of the service.
I believe the Snack worshiper is common. How convenient to be able to sit down with a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers to worship! Put the service up on your big TV and the bowl of popcorn calls from the kitchen. And you don’t have to ever-so-quietly unwrap your piece of candy!
The Child-in-My-Lap worshiper is common, too. Little ones are drawn to screens like bees to flowers, so they love to sit and watch with their parents. For a moment. But, they can get up and down unlimited times and not disturb anyone.
The Multi-tasking worshiper will have several windows open on their computer plus a phone nearby, too. Just in case a message, email or advertisement pops up. If you have to work from home now, you can listen and get some stuff done all at the same time.
The Non-Sunday morning worshipers are in paradise. You can tune in any time you want to during the week.
I’m pretty sure all these worshipers exist because I have consumed spiritual content in all of these ways. So whatever your style is, it’s OK. I’m talking to you!